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J-Court rules to uphold McIntosh’s expense report disqualification charge

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Photo by Photo by Hanna Hausman

The SGA Judicial court mediates and presents questions to both the defense and the prosecution. 

In a 6-0 vote, the SGA Judicial Court voted to uphold the election commissioner’s decision to disqualify Robert McIntosh from the Student Body President race on an expense report violation. Due to the violation being upheld, McIntosh will not be reinstated as student body president and Bobby Brooks will remain in the position.

According to the Court’s ruling, the Election Commissioner prudently and correctly interpreted the proper course of action after assessing the campaign video “Let’s Rally with Robert.”

The Court’s ruling said the SGA regulations offer multiple definitions for what criteria an item needs to meet the be expensed, and that the glow sticks featured in the campaign video met those criteria. However, the question of whether or not the glow sticks were used intentionally needed to be addressed.

“The question thus became one of incidence or design,” The Court’s ruling said. “ By incidence, a material may manifest itself in the course of a campaign and yet remain unregulated.  However, a proven design to incorporate a material in the promotion of a candidate is sufficient to substantially entangle the material with the related campaign. Hence, Ms. Keathley reasonably and reliably interpreted the Regulations with regard to the glowsticks, pronouncing their use and existence within the campaign as campaign materials.”

The Court’s ruling also said that because the glow sticks were purchased by a separate party, and therefore not available to everyone, they were subject to regulation by the election commission.

“Regardless of the definition applied, whether ‘campaign material’ or ‘item,’ the glowsticks satisfy either description and therefore must comport with the expense regulations regarding all other campaign materials,” the Court’s ruling said.

The Court rejected McIntosh’s campaign’s claims that the election commissioner did not do her duty by reporting the violation. McIntosh’s campaign said similar situations had occurred in past campaigns, but did not receive any punishment.

“By failing to assess similar violations against a number of campaigns, the Appellant suggested the Commissioner failed in her capacity as the representative of the Election Commission and thus impeded upon the equal protection of the law,” the Court’s ruling said.” The Appellant further claimed the result of such a dereliction of duty was an arbitrary and capricious application of the Regulations among candidates. The Court rejects this outright. The Office of the Commissioner cannot be expected in any Student Government Association to capably monitor and investigate the actions of all candidates during all relevant campaign periods as well as intercept all internet communications and postings pertaining to the Texas A&M election cycle.”

The ruling said Election Commissioner Rachel Keathley’s actions were in line with the duties of her office, and met acceptable standards set by the Court.

“The chief duty of the Commissioner is not seek out but to evaluate violations in the election cycle,” the Court’s ruling said. “The Commissioner upheld her duty in this case in every way reasonable and expected.”

Management junior and McIntosh’s campaign manager Sam Alders said in an emailed statement, the decision to appeal was never about getting McIntosh reinstated.

“This appeal was never a means for us to justify a successful campaign season, but instead a conscious pursuit of justice in the democratic process,” Alders said. “This pursuit was something we owed to the other campaigns and to our supporters and voters. With all of that said, I want to take a moment to applaud the diligence displayed by Rachel Keathley, the Election Commissioner, and I want to be very clear that I have the utmost respect for her character and integrity throughout an extremely difficult and challenging process. Her name and the names of everyone else who came under fire during these appeals should be lifted up and not dragged down in any way.”

Alders said he stands by the McIntosh campaign, despite the violation being upheld.

“With that, I am proud to have rallied with Robert McIntosh and I stand by my efforts with the campaign,” Alders said. “He is a man of strong character and he will continue to love and serve this university and its students. I look forward to Bobby Brooks’ term as Student Body President and I hope and trust he will lead and represent Texas A&M with character and grace.”

Chief justice and business honors senior Shelby James, along with the five associate justices, business honors senior Michael Formella, computer science senior Dhananjay Khanna, economics senior Corbin Neumann, mechanical engineering senior Eric Handley, and business administration sophomore Ryan Woolsey all voted to uphold the violation.

“The Appellee [Keathley] acknowledged early in argumentation how innocuous the violation at hand truly appeared, namely the presentation of a few inexpensive glow sticks for eight or nine seconds during a Facebook video,” the Court’s ruling said. “While the casual observer might find the decision of the Commissioner and this Court unreasonably officious, our decision rests squarely upon the written text of the Regulations. The interpretation and application of the law is the Court’s sole charge in the Judicial Branch.”

Vice-Chief justice and classics senior Laura Durie said the public needs to understand the court’s ruling is not meant to impact the ultimate result of the SBP election or show favor to any particular candidate.

The Judicial Court as an entity has no concern as to who the next SBP is,” Durie said. “This is not taken into consideration when ruling on a case. The role of the court is to answer question brought before it. In this case, the question was, ‘Did the Election Commissioner wrongly disqualify Robert McIntosh for failure to financially report all campaign materials used?’ The Court unanimously found that the Election Commissioner was justified in her actions, thus her original decision to disqualify Mr. McIntosh will be upheld.”

Case 69-02 was heard Wednesday night. This hearing followed case 69-01, which was held on March 2 and dealt with charges of voter intimidation. McIntosh won 69-01 and, had he won 69-02, he would have been reinstated as SBP. The full ruling can be read on the SGA Court’s website.
 

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